November 10. 1908
Dr. W. S. Woods has again gained control of the affairs of the National Bank of Commerce.
The fact that Dr. Woods controlled a majority of the stock in the bank was made public yesterday morning, and banking circles immediately began to discuss the question. The election of a president was the chief topic, and it is generally conceded that the affairs of the bank have prospered under the management of W. B. Ridgely, president of the bank, and that he will be retained as one of the directors, if not the real head of the institution. Dr. Woods is not a candidate for the office of president, and, it is stated, will simply act as a member of the board of directors and control the policy of the bank.
W. T. Kemper, now vice-president of the Commerce Trust Company, has been mentioned as a probable successor to Mr. Ridgely, but Mr. Kemper is not sure what the reorganization will bring forth, and does not care to be quoted in connection with a discussion of a reorganization.
That there will be changes among other officers of the bank is assured. W. A. Rule probably will be returned to his former position as cashier, succeeding Edward Ridgely. The reorganization probably will not take place until the annual meeting of the board of directors, January 12, 1909, although under the charter granted by the state changes in the management can be made at any time by a majority vote of the controlling stock.
A gradual and substantial rise in the price of stock in the National Bank of Commerce as quoted in trade circles was the first intimation that a fight for control of the bank was being waged. Quoted at prices ranging from $124 to $128 per share three weeks ago, the shares of stock began to rise until last Saturday, $151 to $152 was bid and but little stock was offered for sale. Dr. Woods's efforts to regain control of the bank are said to be the reason for this sudden and unexpected rise, and when it came time for him to show his hand he calmly announced to the directors at a meeting last Thursday of he and his officials and depositors.
There has not been a fight between Dr. Woods and W. B. Ridgely. Mr. Ridgely has not sought to control the bank, and his efforts since the reopening in April, 1908, have been devoted solely to building up a strong and stable bank. Under his control the deposits have increased from $12,000,000 on the opening day to nearly $18,000,000 at the present time.
W. T. Kemper, vice president of the Commerce Trust Company, who has been mentioned as the probable successor or W. B. Ridgely as president of the bank, stated ysterday that he was not prepared to discuss the details of the reorganization of the bank. He says Dr. Woods has control of the bank and that he is ready and willing to serve in any capacity that will best serve the officials and the depositors.
William B. Ridgely, president of the bank, when seen yesterday, stated that he did not care to discuss the subject until further developments were reached. Mr. Ridgely says he will attend to the affairs of the bank as usual, and will give his best efforts to the success of the institution.
"I have nothing to say at the present," was the remark made by W. H. Winants, formerly vice president of the bank. "Things are not in shape to be discussed, and we really do not know what will happen. It is better to wait before giving out statements for the public."
Other directors of the bank have as little to say as the officers.
Dr. Woods still holds his original 1,700 shares, a block of stock he has never increased nor decreased, though he has, during the life of the bank, held other blocks. Since leaving the active management of the Commerce Dr. Woods has been buying shares on his own account and persuading his friends to, until yesterday he and his friends controlled over $1,100,000, or more than 50 per cent of the capital stock. The St. Louis shares are understood to be in the pool. Further than saying that he has enough stock to control the next election, Dr. Woods has not intimated who the new officers are to be. By common consent it was thought on the street yesterday that W. A. Rule would go back as cashier, and as a consequence his offices in the Commerce building were besieged and his telephone was ringing incessantly throughout the afternoon, after then news had got out that there was to be a change in the management of the bank. Mr. Rule declared himself in utter ignorance of everything connected with either the bank or his own home, and instead asked for news. He did not pretend to account for his frequent the East, visiting Commerce stockholders.
Dr. Woods has never ceased saying he was sorry to lose his bank. In its darkest days he declared himself proud of it. He was always of the way the present manager, W. B. Ridgely, was running it. The bank has grown prosperous under the direction of Mr. Ridgely, being in excellent shape to continue under its present management or to pass into other hands.
How well Dr. Woods has his colleagues drilled for the present emergency could only be gathered by listening to the answers all of them gave to questions. J. J. Heim, Hugh Ward, W. A. Rule, W. T. Kemper, W. H. Winants, Hughes Bryant and all of them had "Ask Dr. Woods" at the tips of their tongues. Insisting that his name be suppressed, one of them said:
"The bank will return to the old management after the next meeting. By the old management, I mean that Dr. Woods will be chairman of the board of directors and he will designate his own friends for president, cashier and vice presidents. I do not think he will take the office of president again. He will make the office of chairman more important, and occupy that.
"It is premature to mention anyone for president. The doctor has not done so. He may be expected to renew his old associations. A report that at the time Mr. Ridgely was brought West he had been given the voting power of a majority of the stock for two years was an error. The shares vote themselves and none of them has been pledged. Dr. Woods did not then hold them, so he could not vote them. Now he and his friends do, and they will vote them.
"The bank is very prosperous. Mr. Ridgely may be continued. He is a highly valuable man, and the Commerce is big enough to have several big men members of its board. However, Dr. Woods will be the guiding spirit after next January."